“…hope your soul find rest in the war god’s kingdom. Iriya’s feathered wings guard your rest eternally.”
The priest took a deep breath after finishing his prayer and his white and gold toga fluttered as he closed his holy tome. He turned to Claude.
“Your father was a good man. He was kind and fair. I admire his courage to sacrifice himself for the sake of his family. He paid the ultimate price, but did so without hesitation to spare his wife and children.”
Claude bowed slightly. He didn’t know what to say. He’d honestly not expected so many to show up for the funeral. The shrine was full and the crowd even spilled out onto the plaza outside.
Freians, like the Christians of old Earth, buried their dead in the ground in wooden coffins. The graves were also capped with a gravestone and slab in a cemetery just outside of town. The only real difference was that the tombstones didn’t stand upright, but instead lay flat on the ground. It was also tradition to make use of the body-sized capstone to write a short biography of the buried’s life, with their name engraved on the headstone.
Thomas rolled back his sleeve and, together with Morssen’s other close friends, lifted the capstone in place over his grave.
From lowering the coffin to laying the capstone, the physical burial took about an hour and it was now time to say goodbye. Everyone lined up and walked by his grave. They removed the black flower brooches they’d put on two days earlier and placed them on the grave.
The grey capstone was soon a black mass on the ground and there were still more people waiting their turn.
Madam Ferd, dressed as black as her husband’s brooch mound, burst into sobs. Her shoulders shuddered, but her tears had long since run dry. She fainted soon after and Claude had Welikro take her and his sister home. Bloweyk only realised his father was truly dead when he saw the coffin being lowered into the hole, and had not stopped crying yet.
It took Claude another two hours to thank each of the attendees and send them on their way. He watched the last of the carriages leave, then carried his little brother to his own, where Welikro waited in the driver’s seat.
“You need to be careful, Claude. You shouldn’t leave your mother at home alone. My sister said she’d seen that kind of face before. If she’s left on her own she’ll be dragged back into her sorrow and she’ll fall into depression. While her wallowing for a while is inevitable, it won’t do her any good to be where she’d lived with your father for so many years. A change of scenery is necessary for her recovery.”
Claude nodded. Welikro had been careful not to say it, but Claude knew he was also talking about the fact that that same house had been where his father had killed himself. Their property and lifelong home or not, none of the three could continue to live there. He decided to move them to his home. They’d be away from everywhere that reminded them of their father and husband, and they’d be close enough that he could keep an eye on them. Space certainly wouldn’t be an issue.
He appreciated the slowness of life here compared to old Earth, but in times like this he wished they had cellphones and cars again. If he’d been able to be told about what was going on with his father as quickly as phones would have allowed, he could have popped over and possibly stopped his father from jumping.
The slowed pace of information spread also got even worse once you left the settlement. The world beyond the kingdom’s borders, and even just other smaller cities within the kingdom, aside, even news of significant events from the capital took at least five days to make it to the local prefectural capital, and at least another two days to make it to Whitestag.
And then there was the matter of the distortions and mistakes that would creep in over several days of mouth-to-ear relay. Claude had thought about forming his own intelligence network to at least make sure the reports he got were accurate, but he was still worlds away from having the money to start up such an endeavour, and at least a dozen more worlds away from having the continuous revenue to keep such an expensive organisation running.
He arrived back at the mansion to find his mother awake, but weak in bed. She looked ten years older than when he’d seen her last at the graveyard. She was also wax pale, and her eyes were dark and lifeless. She looked more like a corpse than a human. He had no doubt she would develop severe depression if something wasn’t done, and soon.
Welikro left for home, leaving the last three days’ bills on the desk in the study. Claude was relieved to see Freian funerals lacked the pomp and circumstance of the ones he’d seen back on old Earth. The greatest expense was the coffin. No special banquet or function outside of the mourning ceremony and funeral was held. The brooches were a close second. He’d handed out five thousand of them, and they now all buried his father’s grave. The town had just under sixty thousand people, the rural area surrounding it included, so a nine-hundredths turn out was quite the achievement in and of itself.
Bloweyk’s grief was soothed some by the news that he’d be living with his brother again. Angelina was less enthusiastic about the idea. The move would put her very far from school, a full forty minute one-way trip by carriage, even longer by foot.
“Don’t worry yourself over such things,” Claude said, knowing what sat behind her unhappy expression, “We have a carriage, don’t we? I’ll take you to school in the morning and come fetch you in the afternoon. And don’t you dare go worrying about money, you’re still a child so it’s not your place to worry about such things.”
His mother, like his sister, had her reservations, but Claude didn’t care what she thought. The move, whether she wanted to make it or not, was necessary for her recovery from her husband’s death, and it was his right and responsibility to overrule whatever she wanted to make sure she healed properly. He had quite a bit of preparation work to do at his home before they could move, however. He had to clean the rooms they would be occupying, and he had to move everything from his research room.
Welikro had just left the house and Claude headed for the door to catch him before he took off down the street, but when he got downstairs he found his friend coming back into the house with a young woman. It took him a moment to recognise her as Kefnie.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
Kefnie had been at the cemetery for the funeral, but Claude hadn’t had time to talk to her; they’d only nodded and exchanged kurt greetings.
“I am free this afternoon, so I thought I’d come over and see if I can help with something,” she offered generously, “It wasn’t appropriate to come during the official mourning period before your father’s funeral, so I couldn’t come earlier, I’m sorry.”
“Well–” Claude scratched his head. “–We don’t need too much done here. I’m moving the family to the estate. I’m heading back now to get things ready.”
“You should stay with your mother. I’ll go clean up.” Welikro said.
“It’s okay,” Claude said quickly, “I won’t be long.”
“Don’t worry, leave it to me,” Welikro insisted.
“I’ll go too. Men can’t clean as well as women. Not to mention that since your mother is moving in you’ll have to redecorate to something more fitting of a woman’s home,” Kefnie said, inviting herself.
“…Fine,” Claude sighed.
At least he’d locked his research room, so they wouldn’t stumble on anything forbidden while they were there. He’d just have to smuggle the stuff out once he got there.
“Sorry for the trouble.”
“Don’t mention it. What are friends for?” Kefnie said mischievously.
Kefnie, Welikro and the two younger Ferd children quickly left for the estate. Welikro returned about two hours later with a list of things they were to take back with them. Another hour later, mother, son, and friend headed back to the estate with a creaking carriage.
Claude supposed his father’s selling off of most of their possessions was now a blessing in disguise. They didn’t have to leave anything valuable behind for robber or looters. What they couldn’t take he dumped in the front yard and told the neighbours to help themselves.
Welikro had brought Siori along to help with the packing, and he’d had quite the unhappy face when he realised he was too late to get anything good from the stuff Claude had thrown out. Claude offered him his pick from the leftover furniture as compensation, and the man made the best of it, taking almost everything.
They stopped by the market on the way out of town to buy groceries, then made their way up the hill to the estate, his mother sobbing dryly as she watched the town shrink behind her like she would never see it again.